If you like to step where professionals have stepped, you have come to the right category. For best results, you can use the sort of digital camera that both prosumers and professional photographers use. A DSLR camera lets you build up a collection of lenses over time, which enables you to advance with other camera upgrades and also different sorts of photography. So, if you were using your collection of lenses with Canon's Digital rebel (Canon 300D), and now you've upgraded to Digital Rebel XT (Canon 350D), you can still use your collection of lenses. This is a big advantage because a variety of lenses are suitable for different types of photography, which can produce stunning photos in that specific genre.
Moon nightscape taken on Canon 30D
With DSLR cameras, you will generally have more exposure modes, high quality flash modes, hot shoe, advanced metering system, bigger sensor size, Bulb shooting mode, more blades in professional lenses, better glasses used in professional lenses, customized white balance, and most important of all, higher ISO and noise reduction. These are key factors for digital night or low-light photography and they are not available in cheaper or even SLR-like cameras. Most DSLR cameras offer an ISO of 1600 with high quality noiseless photos, even in ISO 800 and 1000.Meanwhile, digital compact and SLR-like digital cameras offer ISOs ranging from 100 to 400 or 800, and they introduce much more noise than DSLR cameras, even in ISO 400.
Shutter speed rates are often better in DSLR cameras and they usually come from as high as 30 seconds down to as low as 1/8000 or 1/12000 of a second.
Features to look for:
RAW via JPEG capture modes:
This is not an issue with DSLR cameras because all of them support RAW images; at least new generation DSLR cameras do. Most DSLR cameras offer two or three output formats for image storage: RAW being the best, and a fine quality TIFF coming next. High quality JPEG format is the least a DSLR can offer. They are way too compressed, and with this format you can store more images on your memory card, but at the cost of clipped colors, shadows and some mid-tone details. You'd better stick to TIFF and RAW if you are after quality and to be specific, print.
Since DSLR cameras come with continues shooting mode, higher memory buffer is a must. DSLR cameras vary, and from one model to another, you have better memory buffer and much higher speed. That's why some can shoot two frames per second and some can shoot 25 frames per second under equal conditions. Again, don't forget that you'll get what you'll pay for. Digital SLR cameras are built for professional photographers and you can expect much from them as far as the lenses go. When NR (Noise Reduction) is used, more buffer is consumed and the delay between two shots will be much longer, but this is worth the delay because you will have a more noiseless photo at high ISO ranges.
The DSLR or EOS camera's LCD is only used for image preview and modifying the settings. You have no image preview before shooting and you only shoot what you see through the viewfinder. The bigger the LCD, the better preview you can have to more fully understand if you need to recompose the scene and shoot again or not.
DSLR cameras for low-light and night photography nightscape taken on Canon 30D
Digital SLR or EOS cameras offer a wide range of ISO, ranging from 50 to 3200 and in 25 increments. ISO range is one of the most important factors for digital night and low-light photography. Photography is the art of lighting and how to handle the light entering cameras lens. Three settings can control light entering the camera: aperture setting, shutter speed and ISO range. High ISO with acceptable quality is what we are after in night and low-light photography. Try to test your digital camera of choice before purchasing one or read some reviews over the Internet to make sure they can produce acceptable qualities at their higher end or mid range ISO numbers.
The EV range is also worth considering. DSLR or EOS digital cameras usually offer a range from 0 to 20, with the higher number being the best. The higher the EV range, the more accurate exposure will be at lower light levels. Please also consider the increment, which lets you fine tune even further. For example, Canon EOS 30D lets you change EV in 1/3 stop increments, which is an advantage over those who can't.
Lenses use an iris, or diaphragm, to adjust the amount of light entering diaphragm and falling on the camera's APS (Active Pixel Sensor). Digital SLR gives you the option of buying a fast lens like Canon's EF-S series of lenses designed for night and low-light photography. Keep in mind that fast lenses also make the viewfinder brighter, since they let more light in.
Startup time on DSLR or EOS digital cameras are very fast. Also, the shutter lag (the time taken to expose a picture after pressing the shutter) is reduced in many cases in DSLR cameras. On a quality DSLR or EOS camera, these problems should be practically non-existent.
DSLR cameras vary in several ways. One is the number AF points. Some like Canon's EOS 350D offer 6 AF points and some like Canon 1ds Mark II offers 45 AF points. The more AF points, the more you can give a superb response across the entire frame. You also need to be able to manually focus. In some cases that are kind of tricky, even the camera's AF system is fooled. Also make sure your DSLR supports fast lenses. Some Canon EOS digital cameras cannot accept EF-S series of lenses, so if your gear consists of fast lenses, make sure the camera you choose complies with them.
Exposure Mode Dial:
You have fewer options on DSLR cameras when it comes to this feature. They give you fewer preset modes and they offer more of other advanced modes like program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual. But you still can find some DSLR or EOS digital cameras that offer preset photography modes, like Canon EOS 30D, which has portrait, landscape, macro and couple of others besides its creative zones. Canon 20D, the previous model to 30D, didn't have as many of these preset options. It depends on the make and your taste, but most of all, which type of nighttime photography you are interested in.
Flash system and accessories:
All DSLR cameras come with hot shoe, which means you can attach external flashes to them. Some of them also enable you to use several flash units through special wires they offer. A dedicated flashgun will also help maintain correct exposure. Pro Spec Models don't usually have a built-in flash, but rather a hot shoe connection to attach a separate flashgun or any number of specialty flash accessories.
Check to see how many functions you can change through the main menu over the LCD. The more you can change, the more problems you can solve when they crop up. DSLR cameras offer many custom functions.
This function controls and corrects color casts that camera detects in the scene. DSLR cameras present a much more complicated way of customizing white balance. Normally the Auto White Balance (AWB) setting will set the optimum white balance automatically. If natural-looking colors cannot be obtained by AWB, DSLR cameras allow you to obtain it manually to suit the respective light source through custom white balance. For example, Canon's way in producing custom white balance is to shoot a white object that will serve as the basis for the white balance setting.
Storage and memory cards:
You will not face any problem with this item, but make sure to purchase from good brands like Kingstone. They provide more security and you are less likely to lose your data in sudden accidents. Also, keep in mind that two 1-gigabyte memory cards are much better than one, 2-gigabyte card.